MICHELE FOSSI in conversation with PAOLO FIORE ANGELINI
On the 12th of December 1969 at 4:37 pm, a high explosive bomb went off inside the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura in Milan’s Piazza Fontana: the mangled bodies of 17 innocent people and 88 seriously injured were lying on the ground. This proved to be the mother of all the terrorist attacks that followed and that left a long trail of blood around Italy:
1970: Southern express train
1973: Milan police headquarters
1974: Italicus train
1974: Piazza Della Loggia, Brescia
1976: Piazzale Arnaldo, Brescia
1980: Bologna railway station
136 dead, and more than 570 were injured. The victims’ families are still waiting for a clear and final justice sentence: the physical perpetrators all belonged to neo-fascist far-right circles and have yet to be punished. Many were belatedly convicted, some even amnestied; the real instigators have always remained in the shadows. This remains an open wound that is still waiting for public reparation. An incredibly dense web of connections, including deception, concealment of evidence, exasperatingly slow trials, mutually intersecting interests involving international politics, secret services and other state apparatuses in the shadow; facts that were never clarified and culpabilities that were never really attributed correctly to the responsible people. In the mid-1970s, Italy’s leading post-war intellectual Pier Paolo Pasolini turned into an amateur detective and began looking for the truth, putting his own life at risk. Michele Fossi met with Paolo Fiore Angelini, director of the film “Pasolini: Chronicle of a Political Homicide” to discuss these events.
Michele Fossi: Where did the idea for the film come from? The film you’re working on will have an eloquent title: “Pasolini: Chronicle of a Political Homicide”. The theory you are advancing is that this wasn’t a crime of passion, as the official version would have it, but a political execution.
Paolo Fiore Angelini: The film is freely based on the book Pasolini. Un omicidio politico (Pasolini. A political homicide) by Andrea Speranzoni (the lawyer who represented the families of the Bologna massacre’s victims that took place on 2nd August 1980) and Paolo Bolognesi (President of the Association of Families of the Victims of the Massacre of the 2nd of August 1980). The film seeks to make sense of the proven facts that emerged from the judicial and historical contexts. It does not suggest any hypotheses. Any assumptions will be left up to the viewers after watching the film. I wrote the script together with Andrea Speranzoni and Guglielmo Gentile.
M.F.: The film recounts how the operation to defame Pasolini intensified after the Piazza Fontana massacre. What had changed?
P.F.A.: After the Piazza Fontana attack, Pasolini, who had always been persecuted for never hiding the fact that he was a homosexual and a communist was the first to intervene. Together with Alberto Moravia and Dacia Maraini, he opposed the misinformation that was being put out there and the wave of arrests of anarchists and left-wing militants. Pasolini intervened in Italian politics and the society of the time in a way he had never done before. He concentrated his efforts on revealing the truth about what was going on in Italy at the time. He was the first to guess that the bomb in Piazza Fontana was an attack against democracy and freedom and had been enacted by a State apparatus. The reason behind the attack was clear to him right from the beginning, and other attacks soon followed. He saw that the world was changing, history was changing, and the transformation taking place was leaving no space for hope.
M.F.: And what transformation was taking place?
P.F.A.: The world we live in today is a Society of the Spectacle where everything is about consumption and where the power of multinationals and corporations enslaves globalisation and humanity. Pasolini’s thinking wasn’t something new. Many others before him denounced the culture of consumption and commodification, like Alberto Moravia in Man as an End. But Pasolini had a distinct way of communicating compared to the others. He expressed himself through emotions, not only ideas.
In September 1974, Pasolini spoke out at the Festa dell’Unità concerning the split that political powers had created between progress and development. He mentioned Eugenio Cefis, who was president of Montedison at the time. He said: “What kind of development does the government want? If you want to understand it more clearly, read Cefis’ speech to the students of Modena… and you’ll find an idea o development as multinational power… we are witnessing a completely new and even more dangerous form of fascism… a substitution of values and models is taking place in our country; one that mass media and especially television have heavily influenced.”
Pasolini was one of those people who got involved in that discourse with a greater degree of awareness. He was the first to grasp the meaning of the underway transformations and the anthropological change occurring in the country. He reflected on what was happening in the news, and he associated the wealthy neo-fascists living in Parioli –– who had been the protagonists of the Circeo murder –– with the proletarians and underclass from Torpignattara and Cinecittà who were taking part in just as many crimes. No difference between the Parioli bourgeois and the slum dwellers. He spoke of a mass criminaloid milieu. On the 18th of October 1975, a few days before his murder, he wrote in Il Corriere Della Sera: “Consumerism cynically destroyed the “real” world, turning it into total unreality where there is no longer any choice to be made between good and evil”.
M.F.: So, we were saying that Pasolini became a real detective in those years, trying to find out the truth about the Piazza Fontana explosion.
P.F.A.: As I already said, after the massacre, everything changed for him. Let’s not forget that Pasolini’s years were also Italy’s “years of lead”. People were being shot in the streets. These were some of the most challenging years for Italy. The years of massacres and terrorism. After the explosion at Piazza Fontana, Pasolini made a film, the 12th of December, in collaboration with Lotta Continua –– one of the most influential groups of the extreme extra-parliamentary left. The film is a counter- investigation whose theory is that of a state-sponsored massacre. And this clearly did not go unnoticed by the Intelligence
M.F.: Is there any evidence?
P.F.A.: Yes, some documents exist –– though they have very likely disappeared –– proving that the Secret Service was watching Pasolini. This was because he was collaborating with Lotta Continua, of course, but also and mainly because he was making no secret of wanting to show that the Piazza Fontana attack –– unlike the official version –– was not an operation conducted by anarchists but rather Italy’s subversive right-wing: Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale, directed by the Secret Service. We should also remember that the Secret Service were carefully scrutinising everything, especially Pasolini –– an intellectual with a great deal of influence on cultural life, also meaning political life.
M.F.: Your film brings together stock footage, film clips of press material and photography and interviews with people who are still alive, such as the well-known Italian writer Dacia Maraini.
P.F.A.: After the arrest of Valpreda –– identified as the perpetrator of the Piazza Fontana attack –– Pasolini, Alberto Moravia and Dacia Maraini set up a unitary committee against repression. After the massacre, there were in fact, more than 80 immediate and unfounded arrests, especially amongst anarchist circles. The initiative caught the interest of Lo Specchio, who gave it the title “Moral Complicity siding with the Murderers”. Dacia Maraini was referred to as an “elderly rambler lost in the pages of pornographic manuals” and Pasolini as an “invert.”
M.F.: There’s nothing strange about it: homosexuality was a “mark” that exposed Pasolini to continuous attacks and insinuations throughout his career.
P.F.A.: We should not forget that, in the fascist mindset, homosexuality is one of the worst forms of degeneration. A homosexual is seen as someone who is only seeking pleasure without the purpose of procreation and under the fascist regime, homosexuality was a crime.
M.F.: After the attack and the film, on the 12th of December, Pasolini began writing for the Corriere Della Sera. In that period, he began writing Petrolio, a controversial and ambitious novel that was unfortunately never completed.
P.F.A.: This is a novel where Pasolini gave himself much more freedom than the one he had in daily newspapers, in which he wrote: “I know, but I don’t have proof”, which translated into a less literal sense means: “I connect the facts, I understand the pattern underlying the strategy of tension”. You can’t write this or make affirmations in daily newspapers if you don’t have any evidence, but you can do so in a novel. This work, though never completed, has also caught the interest of Vincenzo Calia today, the judge investigating ENI and Mattei. Petrolio is not an essay but a counter-inquiry: it is a literary work centred on the massacres. In “note 103,” when dealing specifically with the piazza Fontana explosion and alluding to the investigations of Gerardo D’Ambrosio, Pasolini speaks of ‘inconvenient witnesses’ and their tragic end. One of these is of the lawyer Vittorio Ambrosini, who fell from the fourth floor of a clinic where he was being treated, together with Alberto Muraro, who fell down an elevator shaft in a building where he was working as a doorman in Padua. One of the real figures in Petrolio is that of Eugenio Cefis, a central figure in the novel, fictionally named Aldo Troya, whom Pasolini identified as responsible for the death of Mattei. Pasolini intended to include in the novel some of the Montedison president’s speeches, in particular the one he gave at the military academy in Modena, which was entitled “My Homeland is called Multinational” and which he wanted to put in Petrolio because he considered it extremely significant when recounting what was happening in Italy at the time. On top of that, the power structure had also changed; clerical- fascist power had turned into a multinational, criminal and mafia-like power that had also ordered the attacks. The novel was published in 1992, some seventeen years after the murder. Why so many years later? Why Eugenio Cefis’ speeches which Pasolini kept amongst the pages of Petrolio and that he wanted to include word for word in the book were, oddly enough, not published?
M.F.: Pasolini was brutally murdered on the night between the 1st and 2nd of November 1975. The investigation was immediately closed with the arrest of Giuseppe Pelosi, a young prostitute. The official version states that Pasolini drove him to Ostia for sex. Here a fight erupted between the two, leading to Pasolini’s murder. Pelosi soon after confessed.
P.F.A.: It was a conclusion that worked out for many people, even though it was obviously implausible.
M.F.: Why implausible?
P.F.A.: Pasolini was found covered in blood and beaten to a pulp, but Pelosi had no trace of blood on him. From the very beginning, Pasolini’s image was distorted through a series of falsified information to discredit him. On the very day of his death, a campaign against him began. His very death was indeed used as a weapon to discredit him. Pelosi’s deposition was released in the first hours and considered the only truth. A blatant violation of investigative secrecy. The media uncritically stuck to that truth. Pasolini had sexually assaulted a minor who had defended himself by killing him. There were a few voices outside of the chorus. One of them was Oriana Fallaci, who –– from the very beginning –– had told another version in the Europeo. She wasn’t the only one, but she remained a lone voice that was disregarded. What was striking were the reactions of the leading left-wing intellectuals of the period. On Pasolini’s death, the left and right converged and went hand-in-hand. Eco, Sanguinetti and Pintor suggested that the poet had been asking for that kind of death. By taking part in ambiguous and dangerous milieus like male homosexual prostitutes, Pasolini had been playing with fire and had paid with his life.
M.F.: Like the old Neapolitan saying: “If you fish in certain seas, you’ll catch certain types of fish”. How do you explain these verbal attacks by famous colleagues? Why did this friendly fire take place?
P.F.A.: Pasolini was an inconvenient character for everyone around, including the left-wing party, which was rapidly transforming. The consumer society, affluence, had brought together and corrupted more or less everyone. The left-wing party also went along with this. And Pasolini, who professed poverty, was considered ambiguous. His condition as a wealthy, successful man who preached poverty was a contradiction that many insisted on. He had been poor and had become wealthy. There was an objective contradiction that people didn’t forgive him. Pintor attacked him on the very day of his death. The newspaper Il Manifesto pointed out that a wealthy Pasolini cruised the slums in a “classy pre-Raphaelite car”, a luxury Alfa GT.
M.F.: Someone wrote that the film Vangelo secondo Matteo had been a prophetic work in which Pasolini had indirectly talked about his cupio dissolve, i.e. his death wish.
P.F.A.: There is absolutely nothing prophetic about that film. Pasolini didn’t want to die. At the time of his murder, he was working on very important projects that meant a lot to him, like a film with Eduardo De Filippo and, obviously, Petrolio. He only managed to write fifty pages of the two thousand he was planning. An enormous, inestimable loss. This “second death” –– whose perpetrators were those intellectuals who should have shown their closeness to him –– was even worse. On one side, because it was more hateful, it also contributed to censoring his ideas. A curtain of silence descended on Pasolini, one that lasted years. Just think of Salò, his last film, censored and only shown in theatres seven years later. Petrolio itself, stripped of a substantial part –– the political part –– came out 17 years later. The literary critic Aurelio Roncaglia, in the book’s afterword, spoke of this delay as ‘reasons of expediency’, ‘to avoid the risk of misleading readings’. A bizarre statement. By the time it came out, the world had changed irreversibly.
M.F.: Let’s go to the scene of the crime now. What happened that night between 1st and 2nd November 1975?
P.F.A.: According to the official version, Pasolini was at the Idroscalo di Ostia with a young male prostitute, Giuseppe Pelosi, who, at a certain point, to defend himself from Pasolini’s alleged sexual advances, killed him. According to this version, Pelosi was the only person present at the crime scene, the only one responsible for having committed the crime.
M.F.: But that version is full of gaps.
P.F.A.: In the first instance, Pelosi was convicted along with unknown criminals. He wasn’t alone, and you don’t need much to believe that. Moreover, it’s hard to believe that Pelosi could have given such a beating to a man as physically strong as Pasolini. The message of the sentence was very precise. It meant the Public Prosecutor’s Office could continue to look for the unknown people who conspired with the convicted Pelosi. But at the appeal, in the second instance judgement, the ‘unknown criminals’ had disappeared. So it was decided that Pelosi had acted alone. It should be said that a second-degree sentence that overturns the first-degree ruling only on the point of conspiracy with unknown people is unusual, not to say inexplicable.
Collaboration with other people does not aggravate the sentence. There was no interest on the part of the court to exclude concurrence with unknown people except to prevent further investigations. Therefore, with the second-degree sentence confirmed by the Court of Cassation, Pelosi became Pasolini’s only murderer. In a very general sense, one can say that the investigations were conducted to reduce the crime to an encounter gone wrong. That was supposed to be the framework. So the crime scene was left deliberately unguarded right from the beginning.
The people living in the shacks surrounding the dirt road where Pasolini’s body was found and the murder had taken place were not questioned; new statements by those who said they had seen or heard something were, inexplicably, not transcribed. Officially, nobody heard or saw anything. No witnesses. And yet, on the 4th of November, the testimony of an inhabitant appeared in black and white in La Stampa. Furio Colombo interviewed a fisherman who lived in those shacks at the Idroscalo. He reported that that night several people had mortally struck Pasolini. He was an important witness, and yet not even the judicial authorities had listened to him. To this, we should add the glaring inconsistencies regarding the times.
M.F.: Which ones are you referring to?
P.F.A.: The body was officially found by a family who lived in one of those shacks and who had mistaken it for a garbage bag. Only when they approached it did they discover –– to their horror –– that it was a badly beaten lifeless body. They were the first to notify the police, who arrived at the crime scene around 7 am. That same morning, the actor Ninetto Davoli gave a name to that corpse: the body was that of Pier Paolo Pasolini. In the meantime, Pelosi was already in custody. After being questioned in the juvenile prison of Casal del Marmo, he gave his version, which, a few hours later on the same day, the evening news promptly reported to the Italian public at 8.30 pm. The RAI, which at the time was the only public television network, immediately swallowed Pelosi’s version. This was actually against the law, which at the time required press silence during the preliminary phase of investigations.
M.F.: So there was a big rush to endorse Pelosi’s version. A suspicious rush.
P.F.A.: Yes, a strange hurry, which, however, found everyone in agreement, apart from a few. For example, on the 9th of November, Luigi Bloise, a socialist and member of the parliamentary commission overseeing the RAI TV network, wrote a letter which appeared in Paese Sera addressed to Giacomo Sedati, who was president of that commission in which Bloise denounced the way the television had reported on Pasolini’s death, by giving millions of citizens a convenient explanation. He wrote: “Even in this case, similarly to the explosions in Milan, for Pinelli and for a hundred other episodes in this strategy of tension and those responsible for televising the news, everything was immediately clear… the version put out by the police was the undeniable truth.”
M.F.: So the crime scene and the time it took place were changed entirely.
P.F.A.: Let’s say there isn’t clarity; everything is very approximate. As I said, the field where Pasolini was killed was surrounded by shacks. People living in those run-down dwellings said they heard screaming for 20 or 30 minutes. They described them as the heartwrenching cries of a man desperately seeking help. These extremely valuable real-time testimonies were never read out in the courtroom. They were never transcribed. The only words believed were those of Pelosi, who took full-on responsibility for the homicide. Hence why, given the insistence of the media on endorsing Pelosi’s version, these witnesses realised they also had to give this same version of the facts.
M.F.: And how did you come to know about this?
P.F.A.: In an interview given to Il Messaggero, the witness who spoke to Furio Colombo, a few days later denied what he had previously stated. He said he was sleeping and hadn’t seen or heard anything. Another curious fact was that, a few days later, Pelosi hired a new lawyer to defend him. A journalist from Il Tempo, Francesco Salomone, a member of Lodge P2, suggested to Pelosi’s parents that they retain Rocco Mangia as his defence attorney. Mangia was an illustrious defender, and, at the time, his clients included one of the neo-fascists responsible for the Circeo massacre. Pelosi’s family were poor, and they certainly couldn’t have afforded a lawyer like Mangia, yet Mangia decided to defend him. The lawyer for this case also had two exceptional consultants. They were two of the most important medical psychologists in Italy at that time. Franco Ferracuti, an ordinary professor and consultant to the Ministry of the Interior, a member of the P2 Lodge, and Aldo Semerari, an extreme right-winger involved in the Bologna bomb trial.
M.F.: Again the name P2 comes up. This was a masonic structure that exerted considerable political power at the time.
P.F.A.: Franco Ferracuti was also part of P2. He was one of the leading figures in the investigations team during the Aldo Moro affair –– the kidnapping and killing of the Italian prime minister by the communist guerrilla group Red Brigades in 1978. The team was set up during the Moro kidnapping and was entirely made up of members of the lodge, a commission whose real function was to sabotage negotiations for the release of the Honourable Aldo Moro.
M.F.: These are serious accusations. Can we substantiate them?
P.F.A.: Some facts lead one to think that the murder of Moro was a coup d’etat: Gelli, P2, the strategy of tension to destabilise in order to re-stabilise. That’s the history of our country. The sentences given out after the trials say so. The ministry of interior, Cossiga, during the emergency, set up this committee. The members-only included P2 men, including Franco Ferracuti and an American advisor, Steve Pieczenik. Berlinguer, the Italian Communist Party secretary, was to be prevented at all costs from coming to power. This is just to illustrate who the two advisors in Pelosi’s defence were.
M.F.: If, as the film’s title suggests, Pasolini’s death was a political murder, then what unspeakable truth was intended to be hidden by means of silencing the writer forever?
P.F.A.: There’s more than one answer to this. And that’s the story of the film I have worked on. Pasolini was assassinated by several people who beat him to death. Six or seven. It lasted a long time, at least thirty minutes. Right from the start, the investigations were oriented in such a way as to prevent the truth from coming out. First, the investigations and then the appeal verdict firmly linked Pasolini’s death to Pelosi’s story. Pasolini was assassinated while denouncing and bringing to light the true colours of that power that had caused massacres, attacks and economic and social constraints in Italy at the time. A year before his death, he had written in the Corriere Della Sera: “I know, but I don’t have proof.” Pasolini had a greater understanding of it and –– perhaps at the time of his death –– he might have even found that proof. Today, after so many years, we can say that Pasolini, as an intellectual, was in the know. The proof emerged later. Today, after all the trials, including the most recent ones, we can say that this evidence now exists.
By Michele Fossi
Published in DUST #20, May 2022